Grace - Université Catholique de Lille

B. Social Science / Arts
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

The French academic system is very different to that of UQ, but I nonetheless enjoyed the experience and learnt a great deal about Europe. I took 9 political science subjects (a full-time French study load) but the workload was significantly less than an Australian full-time study load. My classes were sporadically scheduled throughout the weeks and were cancelled/postponed on a weekly basis. Additionally, because I’m a native English speaker who took only English subjects, I found that knowing English was enough to pass everything. Lecturers usually do not post information or PowerPoint slides on the Internet, so you will need to attend your courses and take notes. The classes were much smaller and it was like being back in high school. Aside from all the fun and distractions on exchange, I would simply recommend that you go to class, take notes and finish your assessment on time.

Personal experience

For me, Lille was perfect beyond words. People say that the north of France is miserable, but it’s so untrue. Lille is a student city with a student vibe and excellent nightlife. While I will admit that the weather is notoriously rainy and freezing, the experience of living in a highly affordable student city far outweighs this. Lille is also the perfect base in Europe from which to travel from. It is close to Brussels Charleroi airport, and Paris and London are a bus or train ride away. Hence, I was travelling nearly every weekend. But I would highly recommend getting to know Lille in amongst your globetrotting. 

I personally found it difficult to make friends with French people who aren’t part of international clubs. If you want to make friends with French people and you don’t live with any, you really have to make the first move. But they are very friendly and will always help you – you just have to ask them. I also highly recommend getting involved in the ESN buddy system, which will assign you a ‘buddy’ to help you with your exchange and will organise many events throughout the semester. 

I did not speak a word of French before coming to France, and by the end of the exchange, I had progressed to an A2/B1 level. I was able to do this because I lived with French people but as strange as it sounds, it is not necessary to speak French. I would argue that learning French was the most valuable part of my exchange, but if you want to do an exchange in France and you have no interest in learning French, you will not have any major dramas


I lived in an Airbnb apartment for the 1st month, which was okay for about a week but became a little lonely at times. I then moved into a private apartment, which I shared with two French girls. It was the best decision I made all exchange, as it gave me an opportunity to learn French and to spend time with them and their French friends. It is usually cheaper (and I would argue better value) to live in private accommodation. It is difficult to organise from outside Lille, so if this interests you, I would advise booking 2-3 weeks in a youth hostel or Airbnb while you search for private accommodation. Facebook is the best way to do this. Ultimately, accommodation comes down to personal preference. Residences are the best way to meet other students and it’s the easiest, most stress-free option. I only visited Notre Dame and Foyer International, but they were both great.


Obviously, the more you save the better. But it depends on how much you want to travel and your lifestyle while living in Lille. Nightlife is significantly cheaper than it is in Australia but still manages to eat into your savings if you are careless. Everything in France is much cheaper than Australia. I paid 350 euros rent per month, which was average for private accommodation. I spent no more than 30 euros a week on food and I rarely used Lille’s public transport system because most things are within walking distance. Overall, I spent around $15,000 - $16,000 for the semester, which included extensive travel (but not my return flights). If you do not travel as much as I did, you could easily go for around $10,000 - $12,000 for the semester.

Professional development and employability

In terms of academic development, I strongly believe exchange is an invaluable endeavour upon which to embark. At my university, I took subjects on European politics that I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to do at UQ. The different teaching style and learning alongside French students enabled me to study in a completely different way. Also, I think the personal development is a huge gain from an exchange. It sounds cliché, but you learn so much about yourself and how to deal with other people. Things don’t always go as you plan them to – and believe it or not, it's not the end of the world when this happens. You learn to deal with problems as they come to you, and often by yourself. In addition to the academic development, the personal development derived from an exchange will prove to be a great asset in a professional environment.


République Beaux Arts
République Beaux Arts

I cannot pinpoint a singular highlight from my exchange simply because there is too much to narrow down. I met people from all over the world, lived by myself in a foreign country, learned and struggled with a different language, and travelled throughout Europe. I constantly surprised myself, which is definitely what I will take away from the experience. As I am writing this, I am realising that the best parts of my semester abroad weren’t when I was travelling around and seeing monuments, but the times in Lille doing seemingly ordinary, everyday things with my friends.

Top tips

  • If you wish to learn a language abroad, you will need to have a basic grasp of the language first. Otherwise, it will be difficult for you to progress from the basics, especially if you’re here for only 1 semester. However, in saying this, so many international students never learn a word of French and live in France just fine.
  • Get involved with clubs and societies from day 1 – after all the orientation parties, people form cliques that can be difficult to break into if you weren’t there from the beginning
  • Do not book travel later in the semester before you arrive – wait until you arrive and meet friends to travel with.
  • Obtaining a French visa is an extremely frustrating process – I would advise you to read the requirements VERY carefully and have all your documents ready to send off as soon as you receive your acceptance letter. I received my visa 4 days before my flight, and I would strongly encourage others to avoid this kind of stress
Grace - Université Catholique de Lille